Dion leaves me alone in the woods immediately after I drop him to the ground, popping more of the candies as he walks away. I’m tempted for a moment to follow him, to forget what I just saw, to grab some mortal female – or two – and lose myself in them for a couple of hours. Closing my eyes, I picture it in my mind, two gorgeous women approaching me in bed, maybe a blonde and a redhead? Laying back on my sheets, I notice their eyes fire with excitement as they stroll closer to me, and why shouldn’t they be excited? I mean, have you seen me? When they reach the sides of the bed, my hackles rise, yanking me out of my fantasy.
I still can’t make myself stray, even in my mind. Opening my eyes, I slam my fist into a tree, barely feeling the pain as my knuckles split from the strike. Why does she still have such a hold over me? Two thousand years and I can’t forget her. Will I never be able to move on?
Heaving a breath, I look down at my fist to assess my injuries, blood covers my knuckles. Wincing, I wipe my hand off on my pants, as I do, my sleeve rides up, and my eyes shooting wide with confusion. Along my wrist is a deep burn as if my wrist had been bound for days without reprieve. Okay, what the fuck? That was definitely not there a moment ago.
Yanking my other hand up, I find an identical burn on my other wrist. Trailing a shaking finger along the burn, my mouth gapes as the injury starts to heal, closing before my very eyes.
What the hell is happening to me? Grabbing the tree, my vision starts to spin as spots form, suddenly on the verge of passing out. After a moment, my mind clears, disappearing as rapidly as they formed. A blinding, searing pain breaks across my chest, whip marks appears along it, trailing down my forearms, dripping blood, making me fall to my knees from the blinding pain. Pressing a shaking hand to my chest, the wounds begin healing and fading almost as quickly as they had appeared.
When no new injuries appear for a moment, a shaky breath of relief slips from me. I have to figure out what’s happening before it happens again. I need to talk to Dinlas; if anyone could help me figure this out, it will be him. Closing my eyes, I reach out through my link to locate him. I don’t immediately sense the bitterness, so I focus more intently on him. Reaching out, I wait to feel my brother, to track him down so he can help me figure out what’s happening. There’s a moment of complete silence. Then another.
My stomach drops, and I’m sure my entire face drains of all color.
There’s…there’s nothing. I can’t feel my brother. I should feel his heart tied to mine, but…I can’t. There’s no heartbreak, no pain, no longing. Just nothing.
I don’t even open my eyes before I pop to my brother’s warehouse, hoping to find him lounging in his office, pissed at me for suddenly appearing without warning. There’s an eerie, oppressive silence, and I know in my gut that something is wrong.
“Dinlas?” I call out, praying he’ll answer.
“Back here!” comes a female’s voice I don’t recognize.
Following it, my gut clenches as I still don’t pick up any feeling of Dinlas in the vicinity. I refuse to acknowledge the bright, flashing reason that I can’t feel my brother’s heart. There’s some other reason I can’t feel him. There…there has to be.
Still I prepare myself, tracking the voice to my brother’s bedroom, my heart steeling itself to take on yet another loss. Can I survive this one? I barely survived losing her, I don’t think I can if Dinlas…
Holding my breath, stepping into the room, I find Artemis and an unknown mortal woman sawing away at the ropes binding to my brother’s wrists. Hurrying forward, I reach down to yank away the ties around his feet, horrified at the sight of my brother. He’s been whipped so brutally, there were slashes criss crossing his whole body in some sick pattern. Whoever had done this…clearly enjoyed the pain they dealt him.
Once free of the bindings around him, my aunt steps away, dialing away on her phone, no doubt attempting to summon help, leaving me and the mortal woman behind.
“What…what happened to him?” I manage to stutter out, moving to the side of the bed and gazing at the mess of wounds that lay across his body.
“That thing over there,” the mortal woman gestured to the residue of what looked like a woman lying on the floor, “is what happened to him. I hazard a guess that it’s some wild Wiccan, but you gods will do some more digging when they show up, I imagine.”
Passively, I take in the decomposing body, and his wolves tearing at what looks to be some kind of white reptile. None of that matters now, not when I still can’t feel my brother’s heart.
Kneeling beside Dinlas, a shaky breath of relief slips past my lips when I catch the slow rising and falling of his chest. He’s alive, looks like he went ten rounds with a Prime, but he’s alive.
I can hear Artemis and the mortal in the adjacent room, making frantic calls on their cellphones, summoning my family, so I take the opportunity to whisper to my unconscious brother, “Don’t you dare leave me, Din. I…I can’t do this without you.”
Gods, he’s in bad shape. With a shaking hand I begin to assess his injuries, and the more I find, the more horrified I become. How could he survive this?
My eyes catch on his wrists as they make their way down. Carefully, so as to not make his injuries any worse – if that is even possible at this point – I turn one wrist over carefully.
That’s exactly what I saw on mine. Those burns on his wrists, from the ropes that held him, that’s what I saw on my own wrists in the woods, what drove me to the warehouse in the first place. My hand shakes as it hovers over his injuries with new eyes. Those lash marks appeared on my forearms, on my chest, identical to the wounds on my brother. But his weren’t disappearing.
Even this close to him, I can’t feel his heart, but he is here, his chest rising with shallow, unsteady breaths – so he can’t be, I refuse –
There’s a sudden commotion as gods begin popping into the warehouse, no doubt alerted by Artemis and the mortal. Still kneeling beside my brother, I glance up at the sound of high heels running along iron, the sound strangely loud in the eerie silence of a moment before.
My mother is gripping the doorway with her hands, and from the look of her, it is the only thing keeping her from collapsing. She appears wild, unkept, her normally perfect blonde locks in complete disarray, her bright blue eyes – identical to mine – are filled with her own turmoil.
Her heart links to mine, the horror and agony she is experiencing now coursing through me as well.
Without a word to me, she strides to the other side of Din’s bed, collapsing to her knees, tears streaming down her face as she reaches a shaking hand out to push back the lock of hair in his face.
“My baby boy, who did this to you?” she murmurs, her entire body shaking as she assessed his injuries.
More gods begin shuffling in, and soon both Miteras and I are pulled away from him, my mother comforted by Apollo, and my father grabbing me for a rare hug. Even as their hearts link with mine, and I take on my family’s heartaches and pain, for the first time, they don’t cripple me. Because they’re nothing compared to the fear coursing through me at the idea that my brother might not make it.
I…I need air. I half stagger, half stumble out the warehouse door, taking heaving breaths as I do, unable to cope with the possibility of a world without Dinlas in it. Sliding down the wall, I pull my legs to my chest, trying – unsuccessfully – to steady my breathing.
The door to the warehouse opens and closes next to me, and I don’t even have to look up to know it’s my mother.
She slides down beside me, and silently, we link hands, feeding each other support.
“Miteras?” I murmur, staring off in the distance.
“Something strange happened tonight, I…I think it’s related to what Din went through.” Rubbing my palms against my pants, I glance at her, finding her eyes locked on my face. “I knew something was wrong, no one had to call me. I…I felt an echo of his injuries.” I rub my wrist absently, remembering the feeling of pain ripping through me, and again, I wonder at how Dinlas survived what he had. “Miteras, they…they formed on my skin.”
My mother lets out a short gasp of shock, and I turn my face to connect with her eyes, and there’s a flash of knowledge in them an instant before she manages to hide it.
“I don’t know why that would happen, Eros. Samhain is a strange night steeped in mystery. I’m sure it’s nothing. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
She’s…lying. There’s only one other time I can recall my mother lying to me. Hint, hint: it has something to do with the thing I’m never going to talk about. I may not be as good as Dinlas or Uncle Hades at sniffing out a lie, but I know my mother. My grip on her hand turns painful; it’s hard for me to even cause her slight pain, but this is Dinlas. When it comes to my brother, all bets are off.
“Eros! You’re hurting me.” she yelps in pain, yet I refuse to release her.
“You’re lying. What do you know?” I demand, my voice whipping harshly against the otherwise quiet atmosphere.
“Eros! Let me go!”
My grip only tightens. “What. Do. You. Know?”
“You’re twins! Alright? You’re twins.”